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John Limbert Education. (2012) Book TV at the United States Naval Academy John Limbert, 'Negotiating With Iran Wrestling With the Ghosts of History.' New.

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Us 13, United States 9, Tehran 6, Iran 6, John Limbert 6, U.s. 5, Roberts 4, John Roberts 3, William Rehnquist 3, Soviet Union 2, Cia 2, United 2, Saddam Hussein 2, Rehnquist 2, Linguine 2, Jimmy Carter 2, Friendl 1, John Glynn Birch 1, Lasher 1, Cretary Christopher 1,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    John Limbert  Education.  (2012) Book TV at the United  
   States Naval Academy John Limbert, 'Negotiating With Iran...  

    October 14, 2012
    1:00 - 1:40pm EDT  

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glare. okay? as an interviewer, i can feel that. just in the relatively few times. you could feel it when you had offended him and asked the wrong question. he would let you know. i think that he was much more complex than some of those little stories and anecdotes would lead us to believe. >> host: let's look forward. one thing that is very important about william rehnquist, he hired a man named john roberts who is the chief justice of the united states. he was hired to be a law clerk. john roberts then ended up serving in the ronald reagan administration and in the supreme court in 2005 succeed william rehnquist after he died from thyroid cancer. what is the legacy do you believe?
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>> guest: i see that john roberts as being rehnquist's natural air. >> now, roberts is a worn just partisan. his methodology is more conservative than william rehnquist, and there has never been it court is conservative, according to the academic studies, there has never been a court that is more conservative right now than the roberts court, at least not since 1987 when records are being analyzed and kept. i think that roberts is very
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much different in some respects. i'm not sure that rehnquist would've voted as roberts did. i'm not sure that he would voted as part of the affordable care act. >> i was betting against roberts, too. then what would have happened is that somebody else would have stepped up. i think that roberts is different in some ways. he is much more polished in dealing with his constituency. but conservatives believe are cut from the stable of cloth. >> host: john jenkins, thank you for being with us and good luck with your book. >> guest: thank you for having
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me. >> that was "after words", booktv signature program in which authors are interviewed by journalists, public policymakers and others familiar with the material. "after words" airs every weekend at 10:00 p.m. on saturday, 12:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. on sunday and 12 pm. click on the booktv series and topics list on the upper side of the page. coming up next, john limbert talks about his book "negotiaing with iran." this interview is part of booktv's college series, it was recorded at the u.s. naval
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academy in annapolis, maryland. >> host: john limbert, in your book, "negotiaing with iran", wrestling with the ghost of history, you talk about two crises in iranian history. what are those for crises? >> guest: two of them are actually prerevolution. two of them are post- revolution. the first was the crisis over the north west iran in area after world war ii. many people believe that that is where the cold war actually started. the second was the whale crisis of 1951 and 1953. in which the iranians attempted to exert control over major economic resources and the effort was frustrated in part because of a cia sponsored coup
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against the iranian national leader. the second occurred after the islamic revolution. the first was something that i was involved in personally. which is the hostage crisis in 1979 until 1981. the second was the crisis involving the hostages -- american and others -- those held in lebanon during the 1980s. a part of that, it was an incident that touched this institution here at the naval academy. what is commonly known as iran-contra. >> host: you talk about it beginning as the enron crisis. what happened with that? >> guest: what happened with the
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allies, the british and the russians, in september of 1941, they had occupied by ron as a supplier. a supplier to the soviet union. the u.s. joined that occupation after the u.s. joined the war. after the war, the russians did not leave, as they had agreed to do. instead, they set up a separatist movement in the north west. which first demanded our economy from iran. that was the first item on the docket of the newly formed united nations. the first five resolutions of the u.n. security council, beginning in january of 1946 -- three of those five involved a
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wrong and others. >> host: what role did the cia play in iran in the 1950s? >> well, that's a great question. i don't have any details. many iranian friends might think that i know more than i do about the operations of the cia. people will argue about this. what we do know is that in 1950 and early 1953, president eisenhower, inheriting a difficult situation from president truman, he gave the order to plan an operation
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inside iran, planning an operation to bring down the prime minister and to replace him with someone who believed to be worn in accordance with our interests. >> host: what was the final outcome? did the prime minister get replaced? did the shock him on the throw at that point? >> guest: it is a fascinating story. the shot was reluctant he was replaced with a military man. he did not like him very much and do not want to see a military man and that he might be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.
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there were stories. the way he was dissuaded, he was told that this is going with or without you. you would be replaced if you don't do well, otherwise you'll be looking for a job elsewhere. and he eventually was persuaded to go along with it. >> host: so, professor john limbert come when you look at that, before we move onto the other two crisis is, what kind of attitude is that helped to develop among the iranians toward the west? >> specifically toward the united states. the iranians traditionally had a very pessimistic view towards the british. the british, after all, had
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participated in dividing the country into influence in the early 20th century. they were part of the race for resources. they took a very lucrative oil concession back in the early 20th century, since we bought it for nothing. they continued their control?? over iran's one resource that? they had and dictated terms to? the iranians. for example, back in the '30s, the iranians said that we shoul renegotiate this, and we want to take a look at the books. the books of this company which operates here in iran. and they said oh, you can't do that. we will decide the accounti, and we will give you a check fo on amount that we decide is de to you. this was the situation.
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the united states up until that time was seen as a friend of the national movement. the iranian nationalism struggle for iranians to become masters in their own house, to get control of their own destiny, started perhaps late in the 19th century, early in the 20th century. and although the united states was not a big player in the struggle, when we did play, we were usually on the right side. there are several very famous incidents when the young american teacher by the name of howard baskerville was killed fighting on the side of the constitutionalists, which has 1909. 1910, 1911, president taft sent morgan shuster and a treasury
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team to help constitutionalists get control of the budget and get control of the country's finances. because they knew without doubt, they were nothing and they had no chance. that was also frustrating. the u.s. was seen as playing a positive role. in 1953 what that at cost to happen, but basically the u.s. had changed its role from being a friend and supporter of iranian nationalism to being something of the new great britain. >> host: and negotiating with iran, you talk about
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misjudgments on both sides when it comes to the 1979 hostage crisis. what are some of those misjudgments? >> guest: well, there were several. one perhaps on our side was the idea that the united states and iran could, in fact, after this revolution, they could rebuild them kind of a relationship. on our side, anti-communist and anti-soviet imperatives. iran's traditional dislike of communism and a russian expansion would create a set of interests, allowing for a least a certain degree of cooperation.
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not while the clock was on the shah. we misread what in fact was going on within the revolution, those people that had been in control had no intention of having such a relationship with the united states. not to be like the soviet union very much. they just did not want to have that kind of relationship. i think that on the iranian side, there was the view that the united states was out to undermine this revolution at all costs. where, in fact, the united states had other interests. as far as i can tell, they were perfectly willing to accommodate whatever the new reality was.
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>> host: november 1979. where were you, will be doing, and what was the biggest thing happening in your life? >> guest: that was almost 33 years ago. we are just a month short of that. just a month short of that day. i was in iran serving at the embassy as a political officer. this was my second or third tour of iran that i was still fairly new and, during my time in the service -- and what we were doing was -- as i said, we were attempting to figure out how to come to terms with the new reality of iran. about 10 days before, we heard that the united states had
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decided to admit shah to the united states for medical treatment. >> host: did you think it was a mistake? >> guest: i certainly did. i wasn't the only one. that was the end of any chance is a halfway normal relationship. it was the end for any chance for any moderation within the new iranian government, and perhaps, most importantly, it was the end of us. >> host: did you know there uld be some action. >> guest: we did not know what, but when we heard this, and it wasn't just me, the sense was the message was you are expendable. our collective goose was cooked. >> host: what it was the takeover? >> guest: it was a sunday from the first day of the week.
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one of the routes of the demonstration is to wes, right in front of our embassy. one of the groups preplanned, as we know, stop and shouted some slogans. mostly university students from the polytechnic, and instead of continuing marching towards the part of the area, we were essentially defenseless. there was a provisional government which had no power. there were some people at the embassy in police uniforms disappeared.
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it is true in any country where the host government is responsible for the security of a foreign mission. >> host: so professor john limbert, he was a marine guard? >> guest: yes, there were marin guards. >> host: were they allowed to fire? >> guest: know, that was probably one of the best decisions. to this day, i feel that i owe my life to their good discipline and training. the group attacking us as far as we could tell was not armed. they were not shooting at us. one of the priorities became avoiding bloodshed. >> host: were reviewing? >> guest: i was in the embassy. ? host: were you watching this? happen????? >> guest: yes, we moved to seal
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the heavy door on the top floor. i should point out that it was not only about 70 americans, but we were an equal number, if not more, iranian employees that we were responsible for. once again, let me take my hat off to my young marine guards, whose discipline and training really saved our lives. >> host: john limbert, prior to that were you burning embassy papers, documents are anything like this? >> guest: we had far too much paper inside the embassy. we destroyed as much of it as we could.????????? we had seen pictures of the ?constituted document.???
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it was his two-stage process.? technology was not as advanced as it was today. the first day, they turn the paper into linguine, and then they turned it into confett the second stage broke down, so they recover the linguine, and with unlimited manpower and a limited time, and the skill that has gone into making persian carpets for hundreds of years, they will back together the least what they saw as the most sensitive documents. they were covered a lot of things undamaged, which they published in about 70 volumes, both english and persian. and next, classify, as a historian, i have to admire wha they did.
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it is a very valuable source fo students of diplomatic history to see what the embassy was reporting. some of my reporting is in there. some of it appeared on wiki leaks. this is 1979 now. and i read it and i think, well that still holds up. sometimes it is embarrassing what you wrote. but it seems to hold up. >> host: john limbert, how long were you behind hardlines? what was the process of the next couple of months? >> guest: they got to the hard-line, that's what happened, and i think i mentioned this  the forward to my book. i ended up out there in a decision that was probably one of the worst of my career.
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i ended up outside the door, attempting to talk them down were to slow them down. that, obviously, did not work. they had a gun on me and a gun on a security office in officer and threatened to shoot us both if the door was not opening within five minutes. i often pointed that incident as my worst example of negotiations in my career. >> host: to that opened the door? >> guest: i don't know, but i'm glad -- i don't know, i think that perhaps the ambassador was at the foreign ministry. and swift, who is the senior person, they did open the
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door. to me, it was quite a relief. >> host: what does that experience did you personally?q how long were you held?qq >> guest: we were held for two months in areas, places aroundq tehran.qq i was qmoved toq a city about 300 miles south.????? others were moved to? other places. they were obviously worried about another rescue attempt.?? after i came back in august, i believe, and never went back to the embassy. we stayed in various places. some prisons and other places around the tehran.
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>> host: how were you treated. >> guest: the iranians themselves, many have a narrative that says that we wer treated well. we were not. i was of the 14 months -- i was nine months in solitary confinement with very little communication with the outside world. i wasn't killed, but i was beaten up. this was not about us, this was an internal iranian matter. within the revolution, the hard-core was using us to go after its rivals. particularly, nationalist, the liberals, religious intellectuals, those who might not be hard-core for this
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revolution. they used us to get there marginalized enemies and get ou of the government. reflecting back on it, i have often said this publicly. the main victims of this whole affair where the iranian people what happened to us was difficult, it was uncomfortable, it was frightening at times, particularly for our families. but the long-term victims were the iranians. with this whole incident did was to create a climate of government without rule.
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anarchy. anarchy and mob rule. where laws and procedures did not apply. anyone who could organize street mob, a stronger street mob would prevail. day, the authorities cracked down or felt they could imprison anyone who questions what they are doing. whether that be a lawyer, a journalist, a filmmaker, a translator, members of the intelligence agency. and it was this particular tion, which set the kind of climate that allowed this repression. it also gave the green light to saddam hussein. to start this very destructive
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war against iran and poison gas, tremendous effect postmarked the green light because they thought america would support this. >> guest: well, he had seen iran is isolated. when saddam hussein invaded, he had no premise. the air countries in the region, with the exception of syria, the united states, other western countries, basically actively supported the iraq was some?? silence. in a shameful incident. i say this with all candor.??? even when saddam hussein used?? poison gas against the iranians. there was very little protest he?r? reaction.
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this was all a climate sent by people. we were willing before the embassy was taken, we were willing to continue some kind of a military relationship. with the iranians. maybe not as fast as it was under the shah, but vast quantities of military equipment, training, spare parts, all of these things. and we would have liked continue it. the embassy seizure obviously stopped on all of that. and iran was in a much weaker position.
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>> host: they were invaded in 1980. you were not released until 1981. what do you remember about the release? >> guest: here is the technology is as best as i can reconstruct it. sometime in august, this was after the shah died. he called on his closest adviser and said we need to settle this. and assign people to do it. ????????????????
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difficult bargaining.? a team of led by deputy ?cretary christopher with a?? very skilled mediation of the all juergens to bring about our? release.?? the release came just after jimmy carter had left office in just after ronald reagan had taken his oath of office. >> host: bathetic wants that? >> guest: of course not. this was a last lap i jimmy
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carter. i mean, and the iranians had figured that cost him his presidency. now they were going to deny him the satisfaction of seeing our release while he was still president. there is a conspiracy theory that says there he was in fact coordination between the iranian side and the republican, the reagan campaign of 1980 to prevent us from being released before the election. it's an interesting theory. i've never seen any documentation for it. i would think after 30 some years, something that's anything to it would've come out. >> words you fly out of? on what kind of plane? dram or senior fellow hostages? what was the reaction? >> the things i remember well.
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as i get older sometimes i can't remember where i left my car keys. but these things 22 years ago now i remember well. they took us to the airport. in tehran. edison buses. i was blindfolded, but i think they showed me to the bathroom of the russ, not out of any spite, just because that was the only thing that was there. but it didn't matter to me. i is happy to read on the roof for the baggage compartment. >> did you know you are leaving at this point? >> yes. i mean, you don't know until you're actually out, but we had visited the night before a group of algerian medical people only need the all juergens remediated. so although the iranians try to convince us that only some of us
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were going in that state as we made to their television, and interview about presumedly atmosphere treated at how happy we were would determine whether we stay or wan, but the give that away and said no, you're all going. so we knew. we got to the airport, a lasher 727 i believe, which were their onboard. when i got on the plane, i saw ambassador langdon for the first time in 14 months. i saw the swiss ambassador dare come ambassador eric lang was there checking earnings of his, agnst his list, making sure everybody was there. there were songs pyrenean
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reporters they are, but after a while, they closed the door and we took off. i know people have different opinions, but i'm a great fan. >> so, john glynn birch -- limbert, what did we learn about iran and negotiating with iran in the current situation we find ourselves in with iran? >> i would like to say, peter, do we have learned something. i am not sure what we've learned. i mean, if you look at relations today, they are not very good. i know we are still a very dangerous place. there's a lot of talk of war. a lot of talk of airstrike in
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iranian nuclear program. being the eternal optimist that? i am, i didn't think we been such a bad place even after what happened in 1979 and 80.???? when we flew out of tehran on?? ?e science, if you asked me, i? would've said in five years,?? seven years, 10 years of the?? most, tempers will cool.???? we iranians will realize we hav? mutual interest, things to talk? about with each other.????? not necessarily as friends, tha? as countries, as states do??? because we talked to many states with? which we are not friendl? ????e to tim?e we?????
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???????????????? this estrangement, this????? inability to talk to each other? ?s gone on now for 32 years an? ?spite efforts to change the?? relationship, to break it, i?? think this president,? preside? obama made a very sincere effor? to begin a process of engagement and begin some kind of talk,?? some kind of talk even without? even if we don't approve or??? don't like or don't agree with? many things that the islamic??
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republic.? he made the effort starting at? the? very beginning of his??? ministry shouldn't ministration, spoke about it during his campaign?? in 2008, took a lo? criticism from mac, including from the current secretary of state, clinton. but it hasn't gone anywhere.?? and we seem to be just about where we've always been.???? i compare us to choose sides on the opposite side of mms, glaring at each other across this abyss, calling each other names, insulting each other, threatening each other. and this has been a very difficult pattern to break.? and what i see today, what i hear today is that both sides
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have fallen into patterns that are familiar to. people in tehran know how to bash us. we know how to bash the islamic republic and were good at it. both sides have gotten good at it over 30 years. what we do not know how to do i to break out of what was the late richard collins, very knowledgeable professor at the university of pittsburgh who said back in the 80s, he said that the u.s. and iranians are in a downward spiral. and what we don't know how to do apparently is break out of it. so we are unable to do that. perhaps it's too hard for us. perhaps it's beyond the capabilities, this diplomatic capabilities of either side.
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perhaps the current downward spiral or threatening situation perhaps suits the insurance of various parties. but whatever it is, it's familiar and comfortable. when we encounter difficulties as we always do, it's very eay to read for act ii this traditional dysfunctional kind of action, which is not productive is at least familiar. >> have you been back to tehran? >> i have not. >> hadn't thought about it? >> guest: i have often thought about it. i have not been back since january 1981. i would very much like to go back. not going back is not by choice. i am not